Jan 10 2011

Ordinary Time


On Thursday, for Epiphany, I chalked my door with the ancient formula 20+C+M+B+11, which remembers the three travelers, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, who left families and kingdoms to follow a starry hope and bring worship to a child King.  For the rest of the year, it reminds me to pray every time I enter: Christus Mansionem Benedicat–May Christ bless this house.

On Saturday, I visited a church with friends Cathee, Bryan and daughter Sarah, and fell in love with the indoor tree two stories tall covered with a thousand white lights.  We sang Joy to the World one last time.

On Sunday, we celebrated the Baptism of Jesus and the final day of the Christmas season.


The advent wreath burned fiercely and quickly in a phoenix fire, to be remade anew in eleven months. The scent of pine and rosemary filled my little home, a clean and pungent smell of new beginnings.


Christmas decorations were put away in their little box.


The Liturgy of the Hours book changed from the blue volume to the brown one (with a pressed four-leaf clover tucked in its pages).


Snow fell.



The first day of Ordinary time.

Yet, extraordinarily full of grace.


Counting thanks…

Young Jack memorizing and singing to me the third verse of O Come all ye faithful, just in time to end the season.


Pages and pages of hand-written dissertation…embracing the one way of writing that never fills me with anxiety, but with peace and beauty and gives my thoughts time to collect.

Lunches and dinners and tea times with friends.

Worship… the morning dancing-shaker-eggs-guitar-praise of Bethany and the contemplative chants and incense of St Paul’s evening eucharist.



Visiting St Ignatius Chapel, a work of art. (More photos here.)

Ministry and teaching possibilities.


The fun of burning real Frankincense.

Snow falling slowly.

Bus drivers who stop between stops and give late-running me a ride.

Thai red curry. (Yummy!!)

Jan 3 2011



Toward the end of the year, I start to reread my journals from past Decembers and Januaries–comparing what I was thinking and feeling then with life now.

It’s always humbling because I find I write the same things, struggle with the same questions, or learn the same lessons over and over, just in different situations.  After an hour or so of reading, I’m utterly tired of myself and imagine a big bonfire of burning journals.

This year was different. Well, I still got tired of the monologue, but rather than being saddened by the broken record of my journals, I was comforted that God sticks with me and keeps speaking, keeps forgiving, keeps showing possibilities in every moment. I’m starting to see my journals as a 25-year record of God’s faithfulness in the midst of my often melodramatic prose.

I also saw that there were certain resolutions that didn’t make it on the official lists, but were quiet and patiently relentless in the background. These were the ones that survived past January.

Two years ago, starting The Contemplative Cottage, was one of those resolutions that didn’t really feel like a resolution. Yet, if I were to list influential practices of the last two years, submitting to the blank page of the blog post is one of the most important.  The call to write, to reflect on contemplative living, to share gratitudes, knowing you are reading, has been a life-changing discipline. Receiving your comments and emails have spurred me on.


At the same time I started writing here, I started taking digital photos–ostensibly for the blog posts. I discovered a whole new world of light and color and way of seeing God’s creation and people, that still stuns me and fills me with awe.  Photography didn’t make it on my list of resolutions that year, but nonetheless, its impact has seeped into every corner of my life.

Photography made it into my prayer–“God, use this joy, please.”

Taking photos has become a way I worship God.  The surprises and joys keep coming.  This Lent, I’ve been invited to be Artist-in-Residence at St Paul’s Episcopal Church, taking photos in response to the Sunday lectionary texts and sharing them in worship. I cannot begin to describe the JOY and the wonderful-terrified-humbled feeling at being given this gift.

I’m also praying about how I might combine photography and short-term missions, a direction that could literally take me anywhere in the world. Joy. Wonderful-terror.

As I read my journals, I began to see a larger pattern in how I approached  life.  The main tasks, such as exams or dissertation writing, I lived in opposition to, so my resolutions were mostly about what I was going to do to take control and get things done.  But then there was  a whole world of un-resolutions, from which God’s cultivating hand brought fruit–joy and grace and LOVE.


While I needed to take some action, there was an indirectness about it all,

a certain hidden grace-full-ness.

Eugene Peterson talks about the relationship between work and grace.  Whatever task before us that God has placed in our lives can be a container for His grace. A concrete action, gift, task, or situation, can become a way to experience God’s grace operating in our lives and in the world.

The blog writing, the photography…I got out of the way and these became containers for grace. And God’s grace does amazing, joyful and transformative things when we let it.

What would it be like to live this way? What it would it mean to approach all of life like these quiet but relentlessly patient un-resolutions?


To get in on the action, but out of the way of God’s grace.

To no longer live in opposition to life,

write no more take-control-lists,

but bring it all in worship to the foot of the Throne,

and see what God does….

(to be continued!)


Today, I am thank-full:

God’s faithfulness through the years. And the un-resolution of 25 years ago to start journaling, so today I have a record of His faithfulness and patience.

God’s grace and all the containers He fills to overflowing.

A new way to think about the dissertation writing….as worship!

My camera, every single day.

My parents singing to me on New Year’s.

Young Jack singing to me O Come All Ye Faithful, two verses memorized!

The community of St Paul’s Episcopal and their faithful welcome.

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